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<b>Ivory Flower</b><br>Keyra Tehani Tejada, a graduate of the hula program at Hawai'i Community College, presents sacred salt to purify the hula grounds.<br><br><i>photo: Elyse Butler</i>
Vol. 15, no. 5
October/November 2012


Survival of the Fittest 

Story by Dave Choo

Photos by Elyse Butler and Matt Mallams  


Two weeks before
I was scheduled to participate in Gilad’s Fitness Adventure Camp, I had an asthma attack. Normally that would have been a deal-breaker, but the steroids that my doctor prescribed for the inflammation in my lungs also relieved the stiffness in my back. I hadn’t felt so limber in years. “No pain at all,” I told my wife between wheezy breaths, trying to convince her that I was well enough to travel.


Middle age. I used to make fun of guys like me, people who had “let themselves go.” “That will never happen to me,” I’d say to myself. But it did happen. One day I woke up and I was 30. Another morning and I was 40. Today I wake up with aches and pains regardless of my level of physical exertion the day before. Worst of all, I make old-man sounds when I bend down to pick up something—anything—from off the floor.


So a month before my 50th birthday, here I am doing aerobics to techno dance music in the middle of a Big Island rainforest. Gilad’s Fitness Adventure Camp is held every summer at the Kalani Oceanside Retreat, located near East Hawai‘i’s rocky coastline. We’re exercising in the resort’s Blue Moon Room, which is a gathering space that is a cross between a very large tent and a Quonset hut. The room is well ventilated, but the air is heavy with moisture and the breezes are light, so I’m sweating buckets as we jump, hop, kick and stretch. “You’re going to pay for this tomorrow morning,” I say to myself.


Today is ’80s Flashback Day, so many of the camp’s nearly forty participants are in costume. Spandex and leg warmers are popular, along with running shorts and short T-shirts. Our host and aerobics instructor, Gilad, is also dressed in ’80s attire—a sleeveless T-shirt with large armholes cut out of it and Spandex pants that end at the knee—but there is nothing campy or kitschy about him or his costume. Gilad, arguably an ’80s icon himself, looks just like he did thirty years ago. In fact, the 57-year-old fitness guru, still built like an NFL defensive back, may even look better.